Strong student presence necessary at upcoming Co-op hearings

The University of Connecticut administration will soon begin hearing proposals from organizations and corporations about a potential takeover of the official UConn Co-Op operations, according to UConn Today. The current UConn Co-Op non-for-profit will also compete in the proposal process. 

Students should continue to educate and involve themselves in the upcoming selection process, as the decision made by the university will have a direct impact on them. Students have the greatest investment out of anyone in the UConn community in this decision-making process; the takeover will surely affect services, for better or worse. This is especially true when it comes to the issue of textbook accessibility and affordability.

“Prospective operators will be asked to discuss strategies to reduce the cost of textbooks, provide options for our students to buy new and used textbooks, rent books, and maximize the value of used book buy-backs,” Scott Jordan, UConn’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, told UConn Today. “We are also interested in how those who respond will offer other course materials for our students at the lowest possible costs.”

The incorporation of open-source textbooks must be encouraged as a central contractual component for the new bookstore operator, whomever it may be. Open-source textbooks, which allow for the reformatting of textbook content without author permission, would provide free versions that can be accessed digitally by students, or inexpensively in print.

The Co-Op bookstore, with the central mission of serving and accommodating to the pressing needs of the student community, must address the rising cost of course material. The College Board estimates that an individual student spends an average of $1,200 per year on textbooks. The rise in textbook price levels has vastly surpassed the rate of inflation, increasing by 82 percent between 2002 and 2012. 

It is essential that students hold the administration and potential new operator, along with the UConn Co-Op, accountable to this end throughout the selection process. No student should have to possibly forgo buying a textbook, compromising the quality of his or her classroom education, due to such disproportional prices. A strong student presence is required at upcoming proposal hearings.